"OY, DAGUL mu nang butakal, patugut nakang magbeybi-beybi, damulag naka ya!"
The pampered sibling—usually the only girl or boy, or the youngest—is sometimes called "baby damulag" in the family. I have a faint recollection of a nineteen sixties television show—Tang Tarang Tang,
starring Bentot, Leroy Salvador, Pugo and Patsy—that had Bentot portraying an overgrown baby dressed up in polka dot jumper and clutching a huge garapon for a feeding bottle. Barring such image, being the baby damulag lets one get away with some infractions while the elder brothers or sisters get admonished.
"Ginu ku pung mamakalulo, oy'ning payobra yu e obrang tau nune obrang damulag!" Oyan ing damdaman mu ustung ing utusan isipan na maigit king agyung sikanan ning pamikatauan ing pagaua mu keya.
The carabao, one of our national symbols, is also known as the Asian Water Buffalo. Big, brusque, black or brackish gray, and slow to move, never walks in hurried steps to reach its destination. In far-flung regions where farming still thrives the carabao is still the farmer's companion in the ricefields—not necessarily by choice, but rather that modern farming implements, such as the tractor, are not affordable. And, as a matter of perspective, it is either a blessing or a curse these days, what with the high cost of engine fuel and the unpredictable weather cycle. (Although Kapampangans who know their Mag Apacta calendar are never bothered by the hit-and-miss projections of technology-based weather outlook for weeks on end.)
Having been exposed enough to barrio scenes where the carabao is a key player, I see how the overworked and underpaid contractual workers these days are in the same plight as the carabao.
Akit me ing damulag potang igutan ne ing paragus, gang man miras ya king lulunak at sobrang maburac, misubsub ya man at milublub a katauan, inutan nang bagutan la ring bitis gulut at arap ba nang isundu ing pamanigut. Nung kalupa yu kung mapagmasid, akit mung bina gang e mitalakad apat a bitis ing damulag, ding arapan nang bitis anti la mong makakomang a aduang gamat, inutan neng iguyud ing paragus nu ya man kabaiat at kapekat ing burac a lulunak megkumpul king lalam na. Eya sumuku, ena tabili, ena patugutan, at isadsad ne angga king sepu ning marangle nuya misogang magobra. Akit mung mangamulagat at mangaragul ne kambang arung at bubulang maputi wawa keng gilid ning asbuk king kabaiat ning obra. Kaibat niti, potang misoga yang painawa, bastante na ing sipa-sipa yang kimpul a are ba yang milabas karanupan.
E tutung malawut ing kabilian na ning aldauan talapagobra king mesabing obrang damulag?
Anti na mo rugu ning damulag, potang e ne malyari king obrang marangle, kaibat deng nebangnan niang kasikansikanan na, ngening makasoga nia mu king lalam tanaman at ginupu ne king obra, datang ya'ing mamulkeru, para pitauaran de magkanu ya dasan manibat king balat, laman, sagu, eganaganang parting katauan maging pera.
Aniang balu kuna nung nanu ia ing damulag para kekatamung memalen ekuna agyung akmulan ing pindang damulag. O maski pa nanung lutung menibat king katauan ning damulag.
Ua, tutu pin king milabas a panaun at angga man ngeni, giang pang keti labuad Kapampangan ing damulag aniang ena la milipat karing sapa uli ning daragus a la'ar, kekaban ning panaun a peligrosu, damulag ya pa rin ing meniadsad mililipat ba lang e miburakan ding tau king la'ar alang patugut daragundung.
For almost two decades, nineteen years to be exact since, the carabaos of Pampanga were every day "heroes" that never faltered in their mission to traverse the lahar-laden river transporting passengers. Where even DPWH equipments failed, jitneys and trucks got stuck, the carabao slowly but surely waded across riverbanks.
I never rode on a carabao's back in my youth. Still I never joined the mass of people pushing to get across the Abacan and other rivers of Central Luzon with the help of a carabao-drawn gareta. Instead, I documented the beast's unwavering consistency at getting the task done no matter the threat and the danger.
What about the carabao these days? You are told it makes good carabeef and that in fact it is more palatable than cow's meat. As in, say, pindang damulag, which is the meat to beat in texture and taste. Or chicharun balat damulag, which is also in high demand because it is more malinamnam at mabusa than pigskin.
We may have crossed over to the 21st century, but some things stay. Not only do we still have baby damulags, we also still have diluted (magsasa) gatas damulag (itang kunuari mu e tutung purung gatas pisit king susung damulag). In the urban setting, workers in malls, hypermarkets, and almost every factory, name it, like our national symbol, people have taken on the obrang damulag.
Last but not least, the enduring skin of our carabao that can endure brackish water, mosquito stings and harsh surroundings has taken on a new twist to inspire a figure of speech—one that is not at all a faithful reference to the otherwise shining and stately way a carabao wears its skin, but to something else and ignoble yet:
Tutu nakang kabalan, alang marine, alang busbus a butul, ustung ngeni mebinyag kang "Kabalat ya kasing damulag!"